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India doubles troop strength on border with China – Bloomberg

New Delhi’s relations with Beijing have remained strained since a deadly clash in 2020

India is in the process of reassigning 10,000 soldiers to the western sector of its disputed border with China, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing unnamed officials. Another 9,000 troops already deployed along the frontier are to be brought under a new fighting command, the report added.

The combined force of almost 20,000 troops will guard a 532-kilometer stretch of the border in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the officials told the outlet.

The report surfaced moments after Subrahmanyam Jaisankar, India’s foreign minister, claimed that China had not observed its agreements with India. This, according to the diplomat, raised questions about “the stability of the relationship” and Beijing’s “intentions.” Jaishankar made the statement during a discussion at the Raisina Roundtable in Tokyo on Thursday.

In October, Bloomberg reported that New Delhi was setting up a drone surveillance system along its borders with China and Pakistan – another neighbour with which it has a border dispute – to deter “surprise attacks.” The South Asian country is also forming an Integrated Rocket Force (IRF), mainly to counter China’s expanding missile and nuclear arsenal.

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Border Security Force (BSF) personnel patrolling along the barbed wire fence at India-Pakistan border during Independence Day celebrations at RS Pura Sector in Jammu Kashmir on August 14, 2021
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Ties between New Delhi and Beijing have been tense ever since their troops clashed in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh in June 2020, resulting in casualties on both sides. Last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg and agreed to de-escalate the situation in Ladakh. The latest round of military talks took place last month, but no breakthrough was publicly announced.

China’s increasing forays into the Indian Ocean region are also seen as a threat by New Delhi, which claims Beijing’s research vessels could be used for spying.

READ MORE: India sets up naval base near Maldives amid diplomatic row

The two sides have also witnessed friction over efforts to boost ties with strategically located allies in the region. For instance, the Maldives, a nation of islands to the south of India, has been inching closer towards Beijing while distancing itself from New Delhi. Earlier this week, Male inked a defense cooperation agreement with Beijing, while a few dozen Indian troops manning rescue aircraft on the islands are being replaced with civilians. Previously, Jaishankar suggested that India should do “better than China” in engaging with its neighbors.

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